BALTIMORE (WJZ) — NASA’s discovery of seven new worlds around a distant star is only the beginning.
So, what comes next? Especially for the three of those planets that may have water on them? Alex DeMetrick reports.
The planets orbit a small, cool star 40 light years away from Earth.
That’s 235 trillion miles.
Three of those worlds could have water, because they are neither too close nor too far from their sun.
The Hubble Space Telescope will focus in on those worlds. It won’t be able to see what’s on the surface, but as they pass in front of the star, their atmospheres will halo. Hubble will look for the chemicals they contain.
“In particular methane, oxygen and ozone in different ratios that can actually be indicative of life, because life alters the chemistry of the air around it,” says Dr. Nikole Lewis, of the Space Telescope Science Institute. “For right now we’re sticking with the way trees and humans alter the air around them.”
The tool that could unlock many of the secrets of these other worlds is taking shape right here in Maryland.
The James Webb Space Telescope is undergoing testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Lab.
It will see further than Hubble, and decipher far more detail of other world’s atmospheres.
“And that’s one of the most exciting things I think this telescope is going to do,” says Dr. Amber Straughn of the flight center.
“We’ll be able to detect water vapor in these planets. So this telescope is definitely our next step in the search for life in the universe.”
The telescope is set to launch at the end of next year.